Membership issues coming to the forefront

By Rex HoggardOctober 10, 2012, 7:58 pm

There is a turf tussle brewing and it has nothing to do with the ongoing cross-border skirmishes between Turkey and Syria, although the seeds of discontent seemed to have been sown this week along the Mediterranean Sea at the posh Antalya resort.

In the same news cycle, word emerged from this week’s Turkish Airlines World Golf Finals, a non-sanctioned big-money boondoggle featuring eight of the world’s top players, that the Turkish Open would become the penultimate event on the European Tour schedule in 2013.

Not long before that newsbreak, European Tour players learned via a memo that the circuit would begin counting starts in the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup and Seve Trophy toward their minimum starts total (13), which prompted Tiger Woods, however innocently, to suggest that he would he consider taking up membership on the European circuit.

“I don't know what my numbers are as I know I played 19 in the (United) States this year and whether it crosses over or not but I will again look at it,” Woods told the Associated Press.

Writing teachers would call all this foreshadowing. A prologue to what is shaping up to be a power grab between the PGA Tour and European circuit.

According to multiple sources the Turkish Open, BMW Masters and WGC-HSBC Champions will serve as a run-up to the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour’s year-long finale.

Replace the phrase “run-up” with “playoff” and “Dubai” for “Atlanta” and one sees where this is going. All that’s missing is a FedEx Cup logo and an endless parade of points projections.

Europe is making it easier for the likes of Woods to join their tour by effectively reducing the minimum number of starts by including participation in a Ryder or Presidents cup. Although the move was intended to help American-based Europeans, like Luke Donald and Justin Rose, it has the added benefit of making the European Tour more attractive to potential American members.

Think of it as a “Buy 12 starts, get the 13th start for free” campaign.

The move could also create some interesting scenarios, particularly in Woods’ case. If, and that’s a huge if, Woods takes up European Tour membership, he could play the four majors, four World Golf Championships and whatever cup for nine of his 13 starts.

The final four would likely be a mix of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship or Dubai Desert Classic, one of which he’s played seven times since 2001; Turkish Open, which would dovetail with a reported endorsement deal with Turkish Airlines, and DP World Tour Championship.

Here’s the rub, because of European Tour regulations Woods’ 13th start would have to be somewhere in Continental Europe – perhaps the BMW PGA Championship, the circuit’s flagship event which is historically played the same week as Colonial and not included Woods in the field since 1997.

Yet according to PGA Tour guidelines Woods would only be allowed three competing-event releases to go play in Europe unless he plays more than 20 events in the United States or is given special dispensation by commissioner Tim Finchem.

Woods hasn’t played more than 20 Tour events in a season since 2005 and he currently has 19 starts with no additional U.S. stops scheduled in 2012, which leaves the ball in Finchem’s court.

And if recent history is any indication Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., may not completely embrace Woods’ newfound globetrotting ways. Just this week, for example, the Tour granted competing-event releases for all eight players at the Turkish Airlines World Golf Finals based on a quid pro quo to play the Open, this week’s Tour stop, at least once over the next three years according to multiple sources.

The Tour is rightfully keen to protect a loyal sponsor in John Fry, but it is the players who are caught in the middle of a rapidly shrinking global schedule. Or, to put it in cash context, they can play for a $900,000 winner’s check this week in California or a $1.5 million bonanza in Turkey, or $300,000 for last place.

From the Tour’s point of view these events don’t suggest global golf is heading toward critical mass. In fact, since the advent of the FedEx Cup in 2007 there has been less of a strain on cross-ocean participation according to officials.

“It hasn’t been an issue for several years now,” said Ty Votaw, the Tour’s executive vice president of communications and international affairs. “We have seen the number of conflicting event releases go down over the last seven, eight, nine years. There are a lot of reasons for that. I don’t know that we think it will be much of an issue going forward.”

Perhaps, but it doesn’t take a risk-assessment team to outline the alternative.

The Tour’s move to a split-calendar schedule, combined with the rumored “run-up” events to the Dubai finale, could, in theory, change that dynamic and put the Tour and events like the Open, which is slated to kick off the 2013-14 season next fall, in a bind.

What if push suddenly became shove, and the Tour was dealt a pair of globetrotting superstars in Woods and Rory McIlroy, who is already a European Tour member, with divergent agendas?

What if quid pro quos, like this week’s agreement with the “Turkish Eight,” became less accepted and more acrimonious? How far would the Tour go to protect its sponsors and its brand?

As the global golf schedule continues to shrink we may find out.

Getty Images

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

Getty Images

Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.